Bathroom Breaks all Night? Lower Your Sodium

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One in three adults over age 30 gets woken up by a nagging urge to pee at least twice a night. This annoying condition is called nocturia, and it becomes more common as we age. Nocturia disrupts the sleep cycle, often breeding stress, irritability, and daytime sluggishness. There are many possible causes of nocturia, including sleep apnea, untreated diabetes, underlying heart conditions, certain medications, alcohol, caffeine, or simply drinking too many fluids.

More recently, experts have identified excess salt consumption as another potential trigger. A new study presented at the European Association of Urology shows that you can slash your risk simply by curtailing your intake.

Researchers recruited 321 Japanese adults who averaged between 9 and 11 grams of sodium a day and also struggled with sleep. While those intakes far exceed the American Heart Association’s upper limit of 2.3 grams a day, keep in mind that Japanese diets tend to be high in sodium — and with all of the processed foods Americans eat, many of us aren’t far behind.

Over the course of 12 weeks, two thirds of the participants cut their salt consumption from 10.7 grams to 8 grams a day. The remaining volunteers increased their sodium intake from 9.6 grams to 11 grams. As expected, those who upped their intake had to pee even more at night than they used to, averaging 2.7 times versus 2.4. Conversely, the participants who cut back on salt went from 2.3 nighttime bathroom trips to just 1.4, nearly chopping the problem in half.

Lead researcher Dr. Tomohiro Matsuo, a urologist at the University of Nagasaki, cites several ways that overdoing salt can exacerbate nocturia. “Patients with excessive salt intake are more likely to feel thirstier and drink more fluids,” he says. “As a result, high amounts of fluids can cause polyuria — an overproduction of urine — or general edema,” which means fluid retention and swelling throughout the body. This latest study is the first to demonstrate the significant impact of decreasing or increasing sodium impact on this condition.

“Nighttime urination is a real problem for many people, especially as they get older,” Matsuo notes in a press release. “This work holds out the possibility that simple dietary modification might significantly improve quality of life.”